Late last night it was announced that the untitled King Kong: Skull Island would be moving from Universal to Warner Bros., complete with cast & crew intact and Thomas Tull & Legendary remaining on board. Why? Because Warner Bros. controls the rights to Kong and instead of licensing them to Universal again, they’ve decided to take them back. The goal here is not only to re-launch Kong at WB, but also to eventually include him in Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla 3, effectively creating a modern update of the 1962 classic King Kong vs. Godzilla.
What is Universal getting out of this, however? I’m sure their logo will remain in front of Skull Island, much as Paramount’s did in front of the some of the early Marvel films at Disney, but surely there is more to it than that? Surely Universal is getting some sort of consolation prize after losing a Tom Hiddleston-starring blockbuster giant monster movie? According to a trusted source, they are being compensated two-fold.
First up, is the obvious perk: theme park rides. Construction on their new Skull Island Kong attraction was recently delayed and this deal is why. Work will resume after the move happens and the attraction will be completed. Other Kong attractions might follow in the future at one or both parks and the studio will reportedly be granted the rights to fashion Godzilla attractions as well. I would assume that they would be geared towards WB’s Godzilla films, but with Toho still in the mix, perhaps they might be able to utilize some of their creations to a degree as well? Unlikely, as Toho is iffy about giving permission to such things, but you never know. The Warner Bros./Legendary/Toho relationship in regards to Godzilla is a strong one and anything is possible.
So what is the second? What possible, kaiju-related consolation prize could Universal be tempted with to not throw a tantrum over losing Kong? Pacific Rim. While the first film did well worldwide, it underperformed enough stateside that WB was fine with letting Legendary retain the rights and take Pacific Rim 2: Maelstrom with them over to Universal. That project has seen a delay of some kind (and is likely to shift its a release date a bit to avoid Nolan’s new film), but is still moving forward. We are not talking Pacific Rim 2 here, however, but what will follow it.
That’s right! While plans could change with time, the idea here is that after Edwards’ completes his Big G trilogy with his own take on King Kong vs. Godzilla, both titular gigantic fiends will guest star in the trilogy-capper to Guillermo Del Toro’s own kaiju franchise. Kong appearing in the new Godzilla films seemed impossible enough, but this one punches through the stratosphere. What we have here is the making of a megaverse saga comprised of presumably 7 films that span across 3 franchises and 2 studios. In simple terms, it would basically look like this…
Pacific Rim (2013; dir. Guillermo Del Toro)
Godzilla (2014; dir. Gareth Edwards)
King Kong: Skull Island (2017; dir. )
Pacific Rim II: Maelstrom (2017, dir. Guillermo Del Tor)
Godzilla II (2018; dir. Gareth Edwards)
King Kong vs. Godzilla (TBA)
Pacific Rim III (TBA)
I’m assuming Edwards is expected to return for KvG, much like GDT probably couldn’t be kept away from a Godzilla and Kong-starring Pacific Rim III if his life had depended on it. Warner Bros. gets a shared mega-monster universe, Universal gets theme parks rights and a piece of the pie, and Toho likely gets Japanese distribution rights for the rest of the films yet to come. It’s a massive win for all involved and it’s a super-win for fans.
As for reconciling the continuities? It shouldn’t be too hard. Skull Island is supposed to be a prequel set in the ’70s, Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla films are roughly set in our present, and the Pacific Rim films are all set far into the future. The latter has a vague past that doesn’t detail much of what happened before the opening of the rift and the kaiju war. It wouldn’t be too hard to work these monstrous kings into its back-history and I’m sure GDT can come up with a way to revive them in his post-apocalyptic monster-filled future.
Things could change, but for now we have before us a rather amazing potential shared universe that will keep us satiated with giant monsters for years to come, both in theaters and at Universal Parks. Sound like fun to you? It sure does to me!